Anyone who knows me knows I am all.about.that.Jane (with apologies to Megan Trainor, whose twee song I am now appropriating). So of course when Alexander McCall Smith announced at the book signing I attended in November 2013 that he was writing a contemporary adaptation of Emma, I was excited. Very excited. Smith is an Austen acolyte, and also incidentally, that of Barbara Pym, as well (and one of the people who recommended her to me in the first place).
For the record, Mr. McCall Smith is a delight and a half. Go to his book signings, if you can. His deliciously dry sense of humor and delivery is well worth the ticket.
Emma used to be my least favorite Austen novel, but is now one of my favorites (as I recapped in last year’s CBR6 review). This contemporary adaptation stays faithful to the novel while adding in some elements that were teased out in scholarship. For example, the nature of Emma’s relationship to Harriet is called into question a bit, particularly some of the control elements or the nature of their homosocial friendship. It was rather interesting. Of course, cars are modes of transport, instead of carriages, but the overall themes of the novel ring true to the original, and it’s still a delicious glimpse at our human follies and interior modes of imagining ourselves.
I have only one complaint: dearth of Knightley. Mr. Knightley is one of the best Austen heroes out there, and his diminished appearance in Smith’s update is the dim spot in what is otherwise a total delight to read.